Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one of the most misunderstood conditions of the last 20 years. People may suffer for years and receive little sympathy for their long term, unrelenting tiredness, aching muscles, and depression. These are the hallmarks of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS,) also called fibromyalgia or Myalgic Endephalopathy. It is also known as post-viral fatigue syndrome because it often appears after a person has had a bout of influenza or mononucleosis. No two people have the same symptoms or level of severity. What makes this condition so debilitating is that the signs and symptoms linger for months, even years. Sufferers lives and income are disrupted, friends are lost, family support may dwindle. Once active and healthy people are unable to exercise and take care of themselves without help.

The common thread among those who experience chronic fatigue include:

  • Persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue
  • Muscle or joint pain (fibromyalgia)
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Flu-like feeling
  • Frequent headaches
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Sleep Disturbances

Other symptoms associated with chronic fatigue are swollen glands, sore throat, depression, digestive complaints, sweating and palpitations, alcohol intolerance. Symptoms may come and go, people may go into remission and think they are finally well only to have the discomfort crop up again when they experience prolonged stress.

Unfortunately, some people go from doctor to doctor seeking a diagnosis and relief that never comes. Others are desperate enough to try dangerous pharmaceuticals that may not provide significant relief. Most are told there is no cure and that they need to learn to manage their symptoms.

Healthy Girlfriend isn't here to tell anybody with chronic fatigue what to do. We only speak from our experience. Like we did, you should do your own research and make decisions that resonate with you. However, we do have some suggestions that  worked for us and helped others we know. 

What Causes Chronic Fatigue?

It seems no one can agree on one answer to this question. It was first thought to be psychological. In more recent years, experts disagree on whether chronic fatigue stems from a viral infection or a bacterial infection. People who suffer from CFS have impaired immunity, so perhaps this is a factor, along with hormonal imbalances. It is often thought that fibromyalgia stems from issues in the central nervous system. Most recent information leads to a viral cause, but that remains unproven at this time.

Sufferers tend to be in their 40's and 50's, and most often women.  People who have trouble managing an overload of stress are often hit with CFS. Unfortunately, conventional medical treatments include antidepressants, sleeping pills,and pain relievers. Patients are encouraged to be gently active, eat a healthy diet and explore acupuncture, massage, and counseling. We feel that these last 5 recommendations are a good place to start, but we have more specific recommendations to help relieve chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

Natural Treatments for Chronic Fatigue

Our first recommendation is to clean up your diet (of course!) That means eliminating all processed (junk) foods and beverages and eat only whole foods in their natural state. This includes whole grains (but not wheat in case gluten is part of the problem,) legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of your food should be organic whenever possible since pesticides on conventional produce cause problems for those with weak immune systems. Dairy is a known allergen and trigger for inflammation, so you definitely want to cut that out, even "healthy dairy" like yogurt and grass-fed butter. Since animal protein is dense, high fat, and high calorie, we recommend avoiding it while your body is rebuilding. There is more than adequate protein in plant foods.

We also recommend avoiding the top 8 allergenic foods until you feel significantly better and want to reintroduce them one at a time:

  • soy
  • tree nuts
  • eggs
  • milk
  • citrus
  • shellfish
  • peanuts
  • wheat

First, Do a Cleanse

Whenever you're sick, and particularly in a debilitating illness like chronic fatigue, Healthy Girlfriend believes your best move is to do a detox or cleanse. The most severe food allergens are avoided and allowed to clear out of the body, and the easy digestion of juices and light raw foods give your body a chance to begin the healing. Check our our detox page for instructions on how to do a cleanse.

You can start with a one-week cleanse. If you don't have the strength to make fresh juices and smoothies, have a loved-one or friend help you. One juicing session in the morning can produce an entire day's worth of living nutrition. Similarly, a couple quarts of green smoothies will add to your satiation in between juices. If there is no one to help you, you can do a great detox on fresh fruit and veggies. It's as simple as peeling a couple pieces of fruit when you're hungry or snacking on pre-washed celery, carrots, peppers and any other veggies you like.

Don't underestimate the power of a cleanse. You're body is an amazing creation that knows how to heal itself. At the very, very least, you will end the week feeling better than you started. If you're taking prescription medication, you don't have to stop unless you don't need them anymore. Often people find that their pain lessens and pain relievers can be reduced. The same with sleeping aids. We don't recommend stopping any other medications abruptly; always consult with your medical provider if you want to reduce prescription drugs. Some people feel so much better on a cleanse that they continue it with enthusiasm.

Other Things to Help with Chronic Fatigue

Get active at whatever level doesn't cause you to feel worse. Gentle Hatha yoga does wonders for your mental outlook and your body. Non-strenuous walks outside, even if you can only walk 5 minutes are beneficial. Take deep breaths and notice the beauty of the trees, plants, and bird songs.

If you don't already, start meditating. Look on youtube for guided mediations or simply play some relaxing music and focus on it. Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and pain. Breathing is often a component, so even if you sit or lay for ten minutes and do some deep breathing it will relax and calm you. A calm and relaxed body feels less pain. 

Check into EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique. It's easy to learn and tons of people swear it helps with pain and emotional issues.

Minimize the stress in your life as much as possible. Find support. Think positively (affirmations, surrounding yourself with positive people.) Your attitude is a huge component of recovery.

Try some herbal and nutritional remedies:

  • Ginger (pain and inflammation)
  • Selenium (strengthens central nervous system)
  • Spirulina and red marine algae (eliminates heavy metals)
  • garlic, elderberry, (antivirals)     
  • licorice root (strengthens adrenals)                      
  • Turmeric (strengthens endocrine and nervous systems)
  • Arnica ( homeopathic pellets or gel)

Over the Counter Supplements:

Zyflammend Whole Body. This blend of Chinese and traditional herbs should be renamed "Problems Go Away" because it's just that good for most joint complaints.  We have found it to be good for run-of-the-mill knee pain, carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, and plantar fasciitis. Start with a half-dose and work yourself up to the full one. Many people with arthritis swear by it. 

Fish or Krill Oil. This one is a potent anti-inflammatory that is terrific for sore and achey muscles, arthritis, and many aches and pains. BUT please do not take just any cheap brand! Carlsson is a great brand because it's high-qualtiy, made with fish from non-polluted water, and doesn't cause after-taste burps. Plus it's a decent price. Krill oil may be a better choice since krill is what the fish eat to produce those anti-inflammatories. (Dr. Mercola makes a good one.) If it doesn't seem to make a difference after a week, increase the dose until it does. You are eating an anti-inflammatory diet, right? Because if you're still eating lots of sugar and flour, you're swimming upstream even if using this very effective anti-inflammatory.

Dr. Eric Berg's Adrenal Fatigue Formula. If you're tired all the time due to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or show symptoms of adrenal fatigue (you know who you are because you've diagnosed yourself off the internet after tons of research.) One capsule before bedtime can truly help you rest better. It is recommended that you take it only for 3 months but many take it until they can get their adrenal glands back online. So although we take it off and on, and it works, you should do more research and make your own decision about taking anything with animal gland extracts in them. 

Valerian and Hops. You can find this herbal insomnia remedy in lots of sleep formulas on the market. Follow the directions and take it before bedtime. It relaxes you and makes you sleepy, so you don't want to take it during the day or too long before you go to bed. Most effective for people who have trouble falling asleep rather than those who wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep.

Hope for Recovery

I (Nancy) can speak only for myself, but through trial and error, utilizing the methods listed above plus a long-term detox diet, I consider myself in remission (if not cured) of chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia. My case was moderate, but severe enough that I had to leave my full-time work as a teacher. I was no longer able to take my two-mile daily walks with my dogs, much less go to the gym. It took a couple of years of spending much of my day exhausted and aching on the couch before I discovered that my rich, foodie diet was a major obstacle in getting well. I believe that if I returned to my former eating habits and experienced a bout of prolonged stress, I could become ill again. There are plenty of others that have recovered from CFS with similar methods and I encourage you to take the time to read or listen to their stories. 

You deserve to feel better, and I wish you the best for a happy, healthy life free of suffering!